This was a recent blog post by Dr Libby and I feel it is extremely important for us crohnies. Have a read and let me know what you think.
Many aspects of modern life can affect the health and integrity of the gut. Food, infective organisms and stress hormones are just a few of the potential culprits. Let’s look specifically at stress – sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) activation – and the role it plays in gut health.
Do you associate stress with eating slowly or quickly? Typically it involves the former and food is therefore not chewed many times before it is swallowed. And there are no teeth beyond your mouth, along your esophagus! Chewing does not only play a critical rile in physically breaking food down, it also stimulates the small pouch that is our stomach to release acid, in preparation of receiving food. So when we inhale food because we are rushing, our digestion is already compromised.
Once food moves down the esophagus, it enters the stomach. Make a clenched fist and look at it. That is how big your stomach is without any food in it. Yet we tend to pile our plates high in the evening in particular and expect our stomach just to cope! A major job of the stomach is to secrete hydrochloric acid and its task is to continue to chop food up. If you imagine food is a big long string of pearls, the job of your stomach acid is to create individual pearls from the string. However, when we are making stress hormones for any reason, they communicate to your body that your life is in danger. Your body doesn’t understand that you are making adrenalin, one of your stress hormones, for example, because you just consumed some caffeine or because of your perception of pressure and urgency. Adrenalin has communicated to every cell in your body that your life is literally in danger for the 150,000 odd years that humans have been on the planet. And so your body is in the state to escape from this perceived danger, your body down-regulates stomach acid production to keep you focused on getting out of there.
When you don’t make enough stomach acid or if the pH of your stomach is too high and not acidic enough, the critical “chop, chop, chop” work on the food your swallow is not done efficiently. And this has consequences.
The stomach acid is supposed to establish what is known as a “pH gradient”. This means the stomach is supposed to be highly acidic. Then when the bolus of food moves from the stomach into the small intestine, the pancreas is designed to release bicarb and a range of different enzymes to continue the digestion process. It is in the small intestine that almost all of the nutrients in food move from the digestive tract across and into the blood. This is how we are nourished. If stomach acid production is compromised due to the activation of the fight or flights response, or if the pH of the stomach acid is too high, nourishment can be compromised. Increased gut permeability (“leaky gut”) can also be generated this too has consequences for digestive system health and also the immune response.
As this poorly broken down food continues its journey through the digestive system, it eventually reaches the large intestine. Housed in there in each human adult, is about three to four kilograms of bacteria. And all they know to do to food, is to ferment it. What word do you associate with fermentation? The word I am looking for is “gas”.
When your digestive system delivers food that is poorly broken down to the bugs in the large intestine, they ferment whatever they are given and not only may a relatively large amount of gas be produced but the integrity of the digestive system can be compromised.
In a nutshell, stress and sympathetic nervous system activation is a major contributor to gut dysfunction. It is vital to know your own individual road into any gut dysfunction you may experience, as your road in needs to be known as correcting it, will be your road out.
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Yours in Health and Wellness
My Crohn's Doctor